Mastering Digital Transformation: Strategies and Insights from Talks with Top Executives.

Three ideas to embrace, and three things to avoid at all cost.

Regardless of your stance on Work From Home, there has been an undeniable paradigm shift towards remote and hybrid work formats that were put in place as a direct result of COVID lockdowns. With the coronavirus seemingly in the rearview mirror, many employers are now pushing for a widespread return to traditional offices.

Several valid arguments support an in-person office format including a more collaborative, spontaneous, and organic creative environment, more successful onboarding for junior employees, fostering a sense of community and comradery, and enhanced social and professional networking opportunities, to name a few.

In a recent KPMG study, that surveyed more than 1,300 global CEOs about their views on return-to-office, 64% of US companies indicated they are devising return-to-office strategies. 87% of CEOs answered that they are likely to reward employees who make an effort to come into the office with favorable assignments, raises, or promotions. 

This includes Dell, the latest tech giant to give an RTO ultimatum. Leaked Dell memos reveal employees can continue to work remotely, but they won’t be eligible for promotions or new roles.

If this trend continues, in-person and hybrid workplaces will become the norm, with fully remote work becoming more and more difficult to find.

While employers are increasingly pushing for an end to fully remote work, research from FlexJobs’ 2022 Career Survey, showed that 65% of respondents prefer to work remotely full-time, while 32% want a hybrid work environment. That adds up to 97% of workers who prefer either a fully remote, or hybrid setting. In that same survey of over 4,000 employees across several industries and seniorities, 63% of the 4,000 respondents said they prioritized better work-life balance over pay. 

Furthermore, according to research by The Washington Post, in 2022, 50% of all LinkedIn job applications were for roles promoting remote work, while only 15% of the posted job openings were fully remote.

With the employees’ clear preference for remote work, companies that don’t embrace remote work are facing challenges in attracting and hiring top executive talent. To make matters more difficult, a recent report by McKinsey, found that employees who strongly prefer to work from home are comparatively senior, and well-paid. Additionally, in-person office formats are detrimental to long-term gender diversity.

Should your company implement a return-to-office policy, keep the following advice in mind:

Maintain an open and transparent dialogue. Clear reasoning will be respected and trusted – even if not agreed with. This puts the ball in the court of the employees, allowing them to process their decision and potential reluctance to return to the office.

Set expectations and keep your word. The most frustrated employees are the ones who were hired in a remote context and are now expected to be OK with a change in the status quo. If your company is transitioning, be open about it.

Be honest about your culture, going beyond experience and technical requirements. Fit is everything – if it’s high-stress, high-reward environment, don’t hide it. Some people actively seek out these opportunities, while others shy away.

We have seen an increase in client engagements where companies implementing a return-to-office policy have tried and failed to fill positions either via an in-house team or a traditional, retained-fee search firm. Our digital-first executive search technique allows us to find the best possible candidates that are typically outside of traditional “who you know” networks. We use our proprietary search algorithms to pinpoint hard-to-reach and passive talent that we geotarget near your headquarters, and/or talent willing to relocate for the right opportunity.

Should you wish to discuss how we can use our unique approach to executive search to help solve your executive search needs, you can respond directly to this email.

P.S. Many experts believe that the remote work balance ultimately hinges on two things:

the supply and demand of jobs and how that impacts employee/employer bargaining power (in a recession, jobs tend to be scarce, and employers can be more demanding, in a thriving economy, the opposite tends to happen).

The emergence of conclusive research surrounding RTO productivity. At the moment, there are no studies by companies or institutions that found that hybrid or WFH are less productive.   

In the aforementioned McKinsey study, employees with hybrid working options listed increased productivity as a top 3 reason for both going to the office and working from home. They listed “saving commuting time”, and “saving money,” as the other top reasons to work from home, while “to work with my team”, and “to comply with my employer’s policies” as the other top reasons they work from the office.

1Be open to external talent

More often than not, positions such as Chief Digital Officer, Chief Data Officer, and Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer are best filled by talent in organizations outside of your company, and even outside of your industry. True experts in this field typically come from a tech or data company/background.

Make digital a top priority

Ensure that digital transformation is a top agenda item within the organization. It should be championed from the top, with active involvement from executives in setting the direction and goals for digital initiatives.

Empower Digital Leadership

Provide digital leaders with exposure to the board and the authority to create and lead a dedicated digital team. These leaders should be empowered to identify necessary changes and drive the digital transformation process effectively. 

Here are the top three things we have seen companies do that have negatively impacted their performance, making it significantly more difficult to pivot and thrive. To avoid making the same mistakes, don’t:

Fill important positions just to check a box

Most companies are aware that they have to do something regarding digital leadership but don’t know where to start. To look good on paper, many typically appoint in-house executives who may not be equipped to lead the company through complex technological advancements.

Be reluctant to invest in technology

Steer clear of leaders who are hesitant to invest in or effectively utilize technology tools. Such reluctance can impede progress and competitiveness in the digital era, hindering data-driven decision-making and growth. Resistance to technology can hinder an organization’s ability to adapt and innovate.

overemphasize historical data

Don’t prioritize historical data over forward-thinking assessments and decision-making. In the digital age, successful leadership requires a forward-looking approach that embraces innovation and digital transformation. Leaders who dwell too much on the past may miss opportunities for growth and adaptation.


That’s all for now folks! Don’t get caught on the wrong side of the innovation curve.


If you would like help identifying and recruiting leaders equipped with the tools necessary to transform your company, please don’t hesitate to reach out.



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Have any questions? We are always open to talk about your executive hiring needs, challenges, and opportunities, and discuss how we can help you.